Parliamentary aspirants along with their supporters hit the campaign trail yesterday as electioneering formally kicked off soon after the candidates were allocated polls symbols.
The election fever is about to grip the nation some ten years after the last competitive general election held on December 29, 2008, contested by 1,567 candidates. The 2014 polls were widely condemned as “one sided”.
This time 1,841 candidates -- 1,745 from political parties and 96 independent -- are vying for 300 parliamentary seats, according to Election Commission sources.
The aspirants have until December 28 midnight for electioneering.
The Awami League, BNP and other parties have planned rallies in divisional and district headquarters and roadside meetings to drum up public support for their candidates in the December 30 election.
AL President Sheikh Hasina will formally inaugurate her party's mega and hectic campaign from Tungipara in Gopalganj tomorrow after paying tribute to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at his grave.
She will leave Dhaka tomorrow morning for Tungipara by road, said Jahangir Kabir Nanok, joint general secretary of the AL, at a press briefing at the party chief's Dhanmondi office yesterday.
The prime minister will address a rally in her own constituency in the morning and another rally at Kotalipara at noon. She will also tour different parts of the country as part of the electioneering, Nanok added.
AL sources said Hasina will not enjoy government privileges during the campaign.
After spending a couple of days in the capital for the Victory Day celebration and unveiling of the party's election manifesto, Hasina may visit Sylhet to offer prayers at the shrines of Hazrat Shahjalal (RA) and Hazrat Shah Paran (RA).
The party is likely to launch the manifesto on December 18, insiders said.
“If she [Hasina] goes to Sylhet by air, she will return to Dhaka by road. On her way back, she will campaign in different important areas including Sunamganj, Habiganj and Mymensingh,” an AL leader said, wishing anonymity.
The party chief will finalise her tour plan soon, he added.
Another AL leader said that after her Sylhet tour, Hasina along with her son Sajeeb Wazed Joy may visit Rangpur to carry out electioneering in the northern districts.
Her archrival, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, will not be present in campaigns for her party this time as she has been in jail since February 8 being convicted of corruption. Her bid to contest the polls from three constituencies was rejected by returning officers.
She also lost appeals with the Election Commission against rejection of her nomination papers by the ROs. The High Court held a long hearing on her writ petitions yesterday and will come up with its order today.
With the party chief behind bars, the BNP forged a new electoral alliance with Dr Kamal Hossain-led Gonoforum and some other parties in addition to the 20-party combine.
The BNP has planned to carry out electioneering under the banner of Jatiya Oikyafront, the new alliance, and also the 20-party combine, sources in the party said.
The party has primarily divided the whole country into four zones with four Oikyafront leaders given the responsibility for one each. They will arrange rallies and coordinate campaigns in respective zones.
The Oikyafront may hold its first rally in Sylhet after offering prayers at the two shrines. The date may be finalised today, said sources in the alliance.
Dr Kamal Hossain may not be able to campaign across the country due to illness. He is likely to join in the rallies in divisional headquarters and in the capital.
Many senior leaders of the Oikyafront and BNP-led 20-party alliance may not be able to take part in countrywide tour as they will remain busy with their own electioneering.
The situation is almost the same for the ruling AL-led grand alliance. Top leaders of the alliance may not carry out electioneering from a common stage in different parts of the country as almost all of them will remain busy with own campaign in their respective constituencies, sources said.
Leaders who are not running for the election will jointly work for the grand alliance candidates.
Unlike the AL and the BNP, the Jatiya Party does not have any plan for formally launching its election campaign.
SM Foysal Chisty, a JP presidium member who is also contesting from Dhaka-11, said party Chairman HM Ershad will join their election campaign after his return to Dhaka from Singapore.
The JP boss left for Singapore last night for medical check-up.
Foysal also said their party candidates have already started electioneering in their respective constituencies.
The Left Democratic Alliance, a combine of leftist parties, will start their electioneering by placing flowers at Central Shaheed Minar today. It will hold a brief rally there, said a press release yesterday.